Stories are powerful

I recently attended a presentation that once again emphasised to me the power of stories — personal narrative — to get an advocacy message across. Very often, organisations have loads of information — facts and figures, statistics and surveys, and focus on getting these messages out in the media. This substantive information is of course very important – but is rarely likely to move people to action on its own.

But people’s own stories do move people in a powerful way. I believe advocacy campaigns need to use them much more. The key is to use stories in a structured way:

Firstly, tell a story about 1 or 2 individuals. In the story-telling, use language of te senses to create powerful images in people’s minds: describe people’s appearance and the scene, talk about how they felt, mention colours, sounds, smells, textures. Make it come alive, in other words.

Secondly, link the story to the broader issue. “This story illustrates a wider problem…”

Thirdly, let your audience know very clearly, what you’re asking them to do: sign a petition, pass a law, complain to their political representative, donate to an organisation… whatever the desired action may be. Story telling doesn’t have to be difficult. Stories can be written, narrated orally, told in photographs, a combination of photos and audio, or video.

Here are some links to examples of powerful storytelling:

http://blip.tv/file/2049608

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/11/05/health/healthguide/TE_AIDS_CLIPS.html?ei=5070&emc=eta3

http://www.soros.org/initiatives/health/focus/tuberculosis/multimedia/story_20080916

http://www.childrensradiofoundation.org/blog/ — scroll down to hear audio diaries from Mujahid Wiener and other children.

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